While I enjoy learning about beer, I can’t actually drink very much at once. This is a slight problem when our growlers are like a bottle of wine; once they’re open, you should drink them within a few days. Earlier this week, I found myself nervously eyeing my growler of ginger beer, well aware that it was slowly losing its flavor.
And so, I combined two of my favourite things (beer and bread) and used up my remaining beer by making a ginger beer bread.
I hoped that beer bread was historic. After all, beer and bread have a long, intertwined history. They are made from largely the same ingredients (grains, yeast, water, herbs/hops, depending on time period – okay, hops are different). Like bread, beer comes from the land, and for Victorians, beer could be an important dietary staple – in fact we recently had an excellent article published about the Black Creek Historic Brewery, centering on just this relationship between beer, food, and agriculture.
However, after consulting with our resident expert on historic baking (Amy in the Half Way House—she is incredibly talented and exceedingly knowledgeable) and perusing numerous Victorian cookbooks, I’ve had to conclude that Victorians weren’t really making beer bread. Indeed, they likely would have asked, “Why would I put my beer into bread, when I could just have beer and bread?”
A good question indeed. Today, we have very different ideas of what beer “should” taste like. Pasteurization and refrigeration have made us acutely aware of—and intolerant to—any hint of sourness. So, rather than fretting about “using up” beer before it went oh-so-slightly-off, Victorians would’ve just drunk it.
Oh well. History doesn’t always work the way you want it to.
Nevertheless, beer bread is wonderful. No reason why we can’t enjoy it today!
I used this beer bread recipe from Farm Girl Fare as a base…and then in a truly Victorian manner, I veered off the recipe and went by feel.
Black Creek Beer Bread
– 3ish cups of flour (the “ish” is what makes this recipe)
– 1 Tbsp sugar
– 1 Tbsp baking powder
– Salt to taste (the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon. I put maybe 1/3, plus some sprinkled on top)
– 1.5ish cups of your favourite Black Creek beer.
- Heat the oven. I had grown accustomed to baking with a bake-oven, which has three temperatures (quick, moderate, and slow), or with my ancient gas oven, which had two (hot and hotter), so I always guess at temperatures. I now have a less-ancient gas oven, which I put to 420 degrees. That seemed to work.
- Mix the dry ingredients.
- Add the beer, a half-cup at a time. Stir in between. You will have to knead it towards the end; the dough will be loose and raggedy-looking, but that is fine.
- Shape it into a loaf. Again, it is fine if it looks a little rough.
- Slash the top, so heat can get inside.
- Bake until done. The crust will be browned and the bottom will sound hollow when tapped. Do make sure it’s baked all the way through; this bread is very, very moist.
Best served warm, with butter.
And beer, of course!